March 16 I Saturday
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” —Philippians 2:12
There are many beautiful words in the Christian vocabulary that very much appeal to us: words like love, joy, peace, fellowship, forgiveness and compassion. But what about words like obedience, fear and trembling? These have negative connotations to many people, but they are just as vital to our understanding of the Gospel.
What does Paul mean, for instance, when he says we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling? In this regard, fear does not mean “to be afraid of.” For example, we are not afraid of water when we go for a swim, but we certainly fear water when it comes in the form of a massive tidal wave. We are not afraid of gravity, but we fear gravity if we fall off a cliff. We are not afraid of fire when sitting around a campfire, but we fear fire if it is about to engulf our home. In the same way, we are not afraid of God as we live every day in union with Him. In working out our salvation, the fear of God is recognizing that He is not someone to be bargained with, patronized or dictated to. Paul is not saying there is a kind of negative aspect to walking with God, such as a bit of fear to keep us in check. He is saying that the fear of God is an essential ingredient in wholesome Christian living.
The Bible is full of verses citing the positive consequences of having a healthy fear of God. Proverbs, in particular, has numerous verses, the most familiar being, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (1:7), or, “Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge” (14:26). The latter is a marvellous and important verse for parents because our fear of God will reap security for our children.
The problem for many people is that they do not fear God. Their understanding of God has become so domesticated and softened that He has become that “big pal in the sky.” Any notion that God gets angry is completely foreign to them, but God does get angry. The fear of God needs to be a feature that characterizes our lives—not in a cowering, afraid to act kind of way, but a respectful fear that honours Him. This is one of the most positive aspects of our lives and involves a refusal to exercise any right of veto over the will of God. Working out our salvation is an everyday disposition in which a reverent fear of the Lord is the most secure harbour for our souls.
Prayer: Sovereign Lord, help me to live every day with a healthy, wholesome fear of You, respecting all your ways. I worship and thank You, Lord.